The Riftbreaker Review – Strip-Mining For Science

The Riftbreaker Review

Developers have been taking bold risks with blends of genres for years now. Most of the time the results are a sum of their parts. Disparate sections that sort of hang together, the connective tissues all fresh and raw. The Riftbreaker feels more organic, more sensible. Of course, you can mix survival sims and twin-stick shooters. Of course, you can add RTS elements, why on earth wouldn’t you? I’ve never played a game quite like this in my life, and it’s weird that I haven’t. Whether this heady blend of genre spices appeals to you is another matter.

Your role in this story is the advance landing party. Along with a single AI-powered mech, you’ll build the rift that brings two disparate worlds together. Assuming you’re not murdered first, as this new world isn’t terribly friendly. You’ve got to gather resources, build up your outpost, and keep your defenses in order. The true challenge is immediately apparent. You’ve got to push your brain in three very different directions right from the jump. You need snappy reflexes for those hordes of aliens, but also an airtight strategy for a balanced, sustainable outpost. If this sounds tough, it absolutely is! But that’s the whole point. It wouldn’t be a proper survival sim, otherwise.

Just You And The Deadly Hordes

┬áCombat feels frantic, and a little mismatched. At least in the beginning, you’re in way over your head. Sure you’ve got a small but significant cache of deadly weapons on hand. But the good ones run out of ammo crazy fast, and your opponents vastly outnumber you. The only concession is they wait a while before really storming the gates, so to speak. You’ve got time to power up, but not a ton of it. Here’s where that RTS brain comes in handy.

The Riftbreaker

There’s an abundance of raw material scattered about, but you have to be smart about its extraction and dispensation. How much do you spread out? What do you build first? How can you control the field of battle? You’ve got a ton of options and very little time to choose with. This deadly equation is where the survival influences bubble up to the surface.

Unlike the average RTS game, things aren’t broken up into missions or separate objectives. You’re here to open that rift, and survive long enough to do so. Even the two major game modes merely adjust certain parameters within this simple goal. To that end, the mission isn’t over until this occurs, so you’ve got to persist in the meantime. If a wave of enemies breaks through and murders you, it’s not the end yet. You just respawn with some items removed, ready to try again. It’s only game over if the main HQ building gets destroyed. This single design decision changes the flow of the whole game. There’s no funneling all your resources into one big battle, no risky gambits that could win it all. The mission continues, so long as your respawn point exists. You think about every move on a much larger scale when success requires persistence and planning. Thankfully, this world you’re stuck on is also utterly gorgeous.

Top-down games like The Riftbreaker have an upper limit on their aesthetic appeal. Or at least, that’s what I previously believed. It turns out even a strained perspective like this one can be breathtaking. All you need is top shelf lighting, texture, and particle effects. A wild and vibrant color palette doesn’t hurt, either. You have to be taking time out to really take in these visuals, a feat made difficult thanks to the frantic gameplay loop. Things only slow down when you’re tripped up by the occasionally jerky pacing.

Here Until The Job’s Done

Events hum along in The Riftbreaker just how’d you prefer, with a couple of exceptions. The difficulty isn’t overwhelming, but the challenge level does go up at a strange pace. Every once in a while, something like enemy density or resource cost will spike wildly. Like I said, not all the time! There was a loose scattering of rough spots, just enough to throw me off my rhythm for a minute. Beyond that, the game gets tougher at a more or less predictable rate.

I didn’t know what I wanted out of The Riftbreaker. But the result feels both natural and necessary. Of course, you would blend careful base planning with high-speed swarms of monsters. Why wouldn’t we mix these three ideas into one? The RTS strategy, the survival sim resource management, and the tense action all make for a singular experience. This isn’t for everyone, to be sure. Less of a sprint and more of a marathon, the challenge of The Riftbreaker is both sustained and intense. This means things like pacing hiccups feel a lot more potent. Even if the prospect of an extended campaign like this seems daunting, the game’s lush visuals are a soothing balm. If you want something more out of the RTS genre, The Riftbreaker will have what you’re looking for.

***A PS5 code was provided by the publisher***


The Good

  • Genres blend well
  • Visuals are lush and detailed
  • Challenge is compelling

The Bad

  • Pacing sometimes stumbles
  • Complex gameplay loop
  • Challenge gets exhausting